Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning and Adaptation (MELA) Initiative

The importance of learning roles of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in NGOs for development effectiveness is widely recognized. However, in practice, the learning roles are often overshadowed by their accountability roles. The theoretical and practical attempts to make a better balance between the two often fail because of underestimating the practical dynamics of incentives and disincentives for stakeholders to learn from M&E. This reality raises a number of questions about the learning process of NGOs through M&E. What incentives and capacities should the programme and M&E team have for learning-focused M&E? Why is the uptake of the learnings not intuitive for programmatic improvement? What are the roles of organizations?

BIGD established the MELA (Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning and Adaptation) initiative to support the development organizations and donors to find the right balance of management coordination where learning the roles of M&E are promoted without compromising the accountability requirement for development effectiveness. The MELA framework realizes the complexity of this paradigm shift and founded its explicit stands in the organizational theories and practical guidelines for M&E. The framework follows an integrated organizational learning approach that encompasses planning, creation, and adaptation with the learning from M&E activities.

Currently, result-based project management is a dominant approach in development organizations. In this approach, M&E is the main operational instrument to plan, track, and assess the results against the targets often committed in a log frame. Here, the accountability responsibility of reporting “what” the progress against the pre-set targets is not enough. They often also need credible evidence in real time about the “why” and “how” of development complexities. Again, ensuring credibility of evidence and availing and using it in real time are, in most cases, not the same things. To be more inclusive and consistent, current good practices in M&E need to be revisited with more integrated and adaptive management principles.

In its entirety and novelty, the MELA framework acknowledges the current good practices and promotes the learning process by M&E activities from organizational learning perspectives while considering right-fit methods and capable collaboration in every stage. The organizations need to facilitate the non-linear stages of such learning process:

(i) an integrated and flexible planning process for programme, M&E, and learning which are adaptive to the changing development assumptions;

(ii) creation of credible evidence from M&E and availing them in real time; and

(iii) programmatic and organizational adaptation from M&E learning as a management strategy. The MELA at BIGD is ready with concepts, tools, and resources to contribute here.



James W Khakshi

Programme Coordinator

Farah Muneer

Programme Coordinator